Report shows visual arts professional development hit

A new report looks at the likely impact on artists after the Arts Council England (ACE) decisions on fifteen previously Regularly Funded Organisations (RFOs) that were unsuccessful in the new National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) process application.

It shows that a disproportionate number of artists’ membership and development agencies and practice-based organisations lost core funding, despite ACE’s aim of creating a “balanced portfolio”. Many of these organisations are ambitious, punch above their weight and play a crucial strategic development role within the visual arts ecology.

Organisations include galleries Artsway and Castlefield, production companies s Folly, Isis Arts and PVA and membership organisations NewWorkNetwork and Contemporary Glass Society. They have all developed bespoke professional practice activity and expertise over a number of years across diverse visual arts practices, and provide significant, quantifiable opportunities for artists at early and mid-career. Consequently, they feed strategically into the work of bigger organisations that have neither capacity nor remit to undertake this depth of specific artist-centred development work. Organisations studied create 19 full-time and 46 part-time jobs, contracted work for 287 freelancers, 133 internship opportunities and 43 artists’ mentoring opportunities annually. Overall, they directly or indirectly support almost 6,700 visual artists pursuing professional careers at a time when artists’ livelihoods are under threat. Other quantitative data suggests education work will be badly affected. Taken together with the impact of increased tuition fees, this layer of visual arts cuts has the potential to lead to only an elite group of people with leisure, money, social and cultural capital being able to gain access to the arts.

The report urges ACE to recognise the vital role of smaller practice-led organisations within the future sustainability and quality of the contemporary visual arts. Amongst recommendations is that ACE NPO agreements should make larger-scale galleries, institutions and visual arts organisations take greater responsibility for wide-ranging artist professional development activity. If they were to outsource the artists’ professional development roles to practice-led organisations that have the expertise, networks, local reach and experience to deliver it, they will not only achieve more for the artists’ concerned, but also support the “ladders of development” needed to foster future significant artists.

Published online by a-n, you can read the report here:
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